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Tibetan Shambala
Buddhism focuses on the concept of dukkha, or suffering, and how to avoid it. In the Buddha's first lesson, which came to be called "Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Law or Truth," he announced the Four Noble Truths. These provide the foundation for all of Buddhism. The Fourth Noble Truth states that release from desire and suffering can be achieved by following the Eightfold Path. (See Below)

Buddhism is based on three concepts: 1) dharma (the doctrine of the Buddha, his guide to right actions and belief); 2) karma (the belief that one's life now and in future lives depends upon one's own deeds and misdeeds and that as an individual one is responsible for, and rewarded on the basis of, the sum total of one's acts and act's incarnations past and present); and 3) sangha, the ascetic community within which man can improve his karma. The Buddhist salvation is nirvana, a final extinction of one's self. Nirvana may be attained by achieving good karma through earning much merit and avoiding misdeeds. A Buddhist's pilgrimage through existence is a constant attempt to distance himself or herself from the world and finally to achieve complete detachment, or nirvana. The fundamentals of Buddhist doctrine are the Four Noble Truths: suffering exits; craving (or desire) is the cause of suffering; release from suffering can be achieved by stopping all desire; and enlightenment [Source: Tourism of Cambodia]

Buddhism is a generally tolerant, non-prescriptive religion that does not require belief in a supreme being. Buddhists believe that the only thing that matters is the inward self; that the goal of Buddhism is to reach a state of nothingness; and human beings are compositions of five temporary states — physical form, sensation, perception, volition and consciousness — all of which disappear after death. Buddhist deny the existence of an individual soul and tell their followers they must transcend this egocentric view to reach nirvana. In its purist forms, Buddhism has no beginning and no end, no Creation and no Heaven and no soul. For this reason has Buddhism has been called a religion without God.

Websites and Resources on Buddhism: Buddha Net buddhanet.net/e-learning/basic-guide ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Internet Sacred Texts Archive sacred-texts.com/bud/index ; Introduction to Buddhism webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/buddhaintro ; Early Buddhist texts, translations, and parallels, SuttaCentral suttacentral.net ; East Asian Buddhist Studies: A Reference Guide, UCLA web.archive.org ; View on Buddhism viewonbuddhism.org ; Tricycle: The Buddhist Review tricycle.org ; BBC - Religion: Buddhism bbc.co.uk/religion ; A sketch of the Buddha's Life accesstoinsight.org ; What Was The Buddha Like? by Ven S. Dhammika buddhanet.net ; Jataka Tales (Stories About Buddha) sacred-texts.com ; Illustrated Jataka Tales and Buddhist stories ignca.nic.in/jatak ; Buddhist Tales buddhanet.net ; Arahants, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas by Bhikkhu Bodhi accesstoinsight.org

Buddhist Teachings

Buddhists see the universe and all life as part of a cycle of eternal change. They follow the teaching of Buddha, an Indian prince born in the sixth century B.C. Buddhists believe that a person is continually reborn, in human or nonhuman form, depending on his or her actions in a previous life. They are released from this cycle only when thy reach nirvana, which may be attained by achieving good karma through earning merit and following the Buddhist path of correct living. +

The Buddha developed the core beliefs of Buddhism as a response to the dominant religious culture of the time, Hinduism, and changing conditions in India. In the Buddha's lifetime, old tribal societies were giving way to new urban civilizations. The Buddha was one of several new thinkers who responded to this upheaval with a fresh approach. He preached a religion that did not rely on authority, ritual, or examination of the meaning of life. It also did not involve tradition, a creator-god, or mystery and spiritualism. Instead, he presented a step-by-step approach to overcoming feelings of sorrow and emptiness, known as the Eightfold Path, and the Four Noble Truths (See Below).[Source: Encyclopedia.com]

There are many aspects of Buddhism that simply seem to be beyond expression. The religious historian I.B. Hunter described Buddhism as a religion of “affinities, depths, heights and subtleties, with its solidarity and cohesiveness, its clear pointing to something more than could be actually said in words.”

Some view Buddhism as benevolent but ineffectual, pointing out that Buddhist intellectuals supported Japan’s militarist before World War II and supported the Sinhalese in their violent civil war in Sri Lanka against the Tamils. Describing the appeal of Buddhism to its early adherents Nietzsche wrote of “races grown kindly, gentle, overintellectual who feel pain too easily.”


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First Sermon in the Deer Park
Dharma (Dhamma), or “what is right and what ought to be,” is Buddha’s teachings. The statements that The Buddha is recorded of having said were generally very brief. He only elaborated upon them if requested to or he viewed such elaborations were necessary. These statements were comprehended in many different ways by many different individuals and thousands of pages were written about them.

According to the Asia Society Museum: “The Buddha's teaching, known to his followers as the Dhamma, is taught on the basis of his own clear comprehension of reality, free from appeals to divine authority and demands for unquestioning faith. Open to reason and critical inquiry, the Dhamma calls out for personal verification. The teaching begins with the observation that human life is beset by a sense of dissatisfaction pain or suffering and the cause for the suffering is the self centered desires. Then follows the most optimistic affirmation of the Buddha that suffering can be totally overcome! Hence liberation from suffering is the goal of the teaching and the Noble Eightfold Path has been laid down as the way to liberation. [Source: Asia Society Museum asiasocietymuseum.org |~| ]

“Buddhism offers, as integral to its path, a profound philosophy, an intricate analysis of the mind, lofty ethics and well-tested methods of meditation. The fruits of the Buddhist Way show in serene understanding, in kindness and compassion towards others, and in equanimity amidst the vicissitudes of life. Free from dogma, emphasizing personal responsibility as the key to right conduct and direct experience as the key to truth, Buddhism has an important role to play in the modern world.” |~|

The Buddha’s teaching was not designed to answer philosophical or speculative questions. It was established to offer a means of escape from suffering. Gautama Buddha was put off by speculation about the cosmos and eternity and was interested mostly in what could help one reach enlightenment in the here and now. Buddhism philosophy and cosmology is either rooted in Hinduism or came about as Buddhism developed after Gautama’s death. On one hand The Buddha encouraged individuals to seek their own inner truths and never said that his teachings and doctrines were sacrosanct and should be followed completely. But on the other hand he said that there was one sole Way to achieve purification and overcome suffering and those who deviated from the Way would some how fall short of achieving his aim.

In Dhammapada 276 The Buddha said: “Sadly lives the man of sloth involved in evil unskilled states of mind, and great is the goal he fails to win. But he who stirs up energy lives happily, aloof from unskilled states of mind and great is the goal he makes perfect. Not through what is low comes the attainment of the highest, but through what is high come the attainment of the highest.”

Dharma is one of the Three Jewels- along with the Buddha and “Sangha” (the community of monks) who preserve and transmit Buddha’s teachings — are central to the understanding and teaching of Buddhism and are the Buddhist equivalent of the Christian Holy Trinity. One definition of a Buddhist is “one who takes refuge in the Three Jewels.” The vow taken by Theravada monks — "I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the law, I take refuge in the Sangha — is asserts their embrace of the Three Jewels.

Life is Full of Suffering So Look Inward

The Buddha came to understand that all of life is suffering and, which is caused by desire. By eliminating desire, one can break the cycle of suffering and attain nirvana, the end of suffering. This can be achieved not through extreme denial or indulgence, but by following the path of moderation, known as the middle way. [Source: Encyclopedia.com]

Buddhists believe that life is full of misery and is ultimately is unreal. The cycle of birth and rebirth continues because of attachment and desire to the "unreal self." Meditation and good deeds, it is thought, will ultimately end the cycle and help the individual to achieve Nirvana, a state of blissful nothingness. To achieve this one must look inward and gain control of the mind and find internal peace. To achieve this takes time and is an evolutionary process that takes place in stages through many lifetimes and cycles or birth, death and rebirth to attain the "real soul" within a person which is in a constant state of flux.

Gregory Smits wrote that “Buddhism arose in response to the problem of human suffering. More specifically, if we are all destined to become ill, grow old, and die, what is the point of life? Of course, this is the basic issue with which most religions grapple...After trying various approaches, the original Buddha came up with a core insight that life is infused with suffering because of our insatiable desires. As a result, we should strove to eliminate our desires, which will eliminate the suffering. This proposition may sound reasonable and simple, but putting it into practice is terribly difficult.” [Source: “Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University figal-sensei.org ]

Buddhists believe: 1) life is full of suffering, death, sickness and the loss of loved ones; 2) life is perpetuated by reincarnation (rebirth); 3) suffering is caused by desire (particularly physical desire and the desire for personal fulfillment) and liberation from rebirth occurs with the elimination of desire; 4) eight steps ("The Eightfold Path") are necessary to live a good life on earth; 5) the only one way to escape suffering is the way of Buddha; 6) this path leads to nirvana; and 7) salvation comes with faith in Buddha and practice of Buddha law (“Dharma” ) as preached by a community of monks (the Sangha).

Prince Siddhartha Sees the Three Froms of Suffering on His Way to the Park

Middle Way and Eightfold Path

Buddha's teachings are known as "The Way," "The Path" or the “Middle Way.” The Buddhist "Path" consists of three directions” morality, meditation and wisdom — all of which are pursued simultaneously. The "Middle Way" refers to a life is halfway between a life of self-torture and asceticism and a life of self-indulgence in the material world.

The Buddha urged the world to relinquish the extremes of sensuality and self-mortification and follow the enlightened Middle Way. The focus was on man, not gods; the assumption was that life was pain or suffering, which was a consequence of craving, and that suffering could end only if desire ceased. The end of suffering was the achievement of nirvana (in Theravada Buddhist scriptures, nibbana), often defined negatively as the absence of craving and therefore of suffering, sometimes as enlightenment or bliss. [Source: Library of Congress]

The "Eightfold Path," which Buddhists are supposed to follow is comprised of: 1) right understanding (the realization that is full of suffering and suffering is caused by desire); 2) right thought (conditioning the mind to be free of desire and ill thoughts towards others); 3) right speech (refraining from lies, abuse and deceit); 4) right bodily action (refraining from violence); 5) right livelihood (avoiding self-indulgence); 6) right moral effort (showing kindness and controlling passions); 7) right mindedness (developing virtues); and 8) right concentration (practicing meditation).

Four Noble Truths

The Buddha preached his view of life and suffering in a formula known as the Four Noble Truths, the most basic doctrine of Buddhism. The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism are: 1) “dukka,” the belief that human life is an exercise in suffering replete with evil, disease, imperfection and unhappiness; 2) “samodaya” , the concept that suffering is caused by craving and desire, which can not satisfy the spirit; 3) “nirodha” , freedom offered by renouncement of desire, which is rooted in ignorance; and 4) “magga” , the cessation of desire which culminates in nirvana by following the Eightfold Path. These principals were introduced in the First Sermon at Sarnath.

The fundamentals of Buddhist doctrine are the Four Noble Truths: suffering exists; craving (or desire) is the cause of suffering; release from suffering can be achieved by stopping all desire; and enlightenment — buddhahood — can be attained by following the Noble Eightfold Path (right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration), which constitutes a middle way between sensuality and ascetism. Enlightenment consists of knowing these truths. The average layperson cannot hope for nirvana after the end of this life, but can — by complying, as best he or she is able to, with the doctrine's rules of moral conduct — hope to improve his or her karma and thereby better his condition in the next incarnation. *

Robert Eno of Indiana University wrote: “These truths tell us, 1) that life in samsara is suffering; 2) that this has a cause..our longing for illusory things; 3) that this suffering may be ended by following the path of the Buddha; 4) what that path is. The first two truths comprise the basic worldview of Buddhist thought. The final two truths point towards the practical core of Buddhism: its path towards salvation through self-cultivation in the manner of the Buddha's own struggle to enlightenment.” [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

No-Self and Absence of a Soul in Buddhism

One of the most important, and hard to grasp, of all all Buddhist teachings is the doctrine of anatta, or "no-self". One of The Buddha's teachings about the cause of suffering was that it was a result of false illusions about the self. The self, or soul, or "essential person", was an illusion. Thus Buddhism does not teach that "you" are "soul" which is "reborn" (although certain forms of Hindu teaching may be understood in this way. Rather Buddhism teachers the "Mind" and "Mindfulness" exist, and that there is a karmic continuity between incarnations of mind. The link then is karmic, not essential. The Anattalakkhana Sutta is a document from the Pali canon of Buddhist scriptures in which the Buddha argues for this idea. [Source: Brooklyn College]

The Buddha said: [T]he belief in an [individual soul] is merely an illusion. Just as that which we designate by the name of "chariot," has no existence apart from axle, wheels, shaft, and so forth: or as the word "house" is merely a convenient designation for various materials put together after a certain fashion so as to enclose a portion of space, and there is no separate house-entity in existence:- in exactly the same way, that which we call a "being," or an "individual," or a "person," or by the name "I," is nothing but a changing combination of physical and psychical phenomena, and has no real existence in itself. [Source: Mario Bussagli, “5000 Years of the Art of India” (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., n.d.). Internet Archive, from CCNY]

The Sri Lankan monk Aryadasa Ratnasinghe wrote: “Buddhism stands unique since it denies in the existence of a soul (ego). Buddha said that the idea of a soul is an imaginary, false and baseless belief, which has no corresponding reality, but produces harmful thoughts, selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism and other defilements, impurities and problems. In short, to this false view can be traced all the evils in the world which we experience. Soul is usually explained as the principle of life, the ultimate identity of a person or the immortal constituent of self.”

Importance of Inquiry and Being Down to Earth

R.P. Hayes, formerly Professor of Sanskrit at McGill University in Canada, wrote: “The Buddha warned strongly against blind faith and encouraged the way of truthful inquiry. In one of His best known sermons, the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha pointed out the danger in fashioning one's beliefs merely on the following grounds: on hearsay, on tradition, because many others say it is so, on the authority of ancient scriptures, on the word of a supernatural being, or out of trust in one's teachers, elders, or priests. Instead one maintains an open mind and thoroughly investigates one's own experience of life. When one sees for oneself that a particular view agrees with both experience and reason, and leads to the happiness of one and all, then one should accept that view and live up to it! [Source:R.P. Hayes, Buddhist Society of Western Australia, Buddha Sasana =|=]

“This principle, of course, applies to the Buddha's own Teachings. They should be considered and inquired into using the clarity of mind born of meditation. Only when one sees these Teachings for oneself in the experience of insight, do these Teachings become one's Truth and give blissful liberation. =|=

“The traveller on the way of inquiry needs the practice of tolerance. Tolerance does not mean that one embraces every idea or view but means one doesn't get angry at what one can't accept. Further along the journey, what one once disagreed with might later be seen to be true. So in the spirit of tolerant inquiry, here are some more of the basic Teachings as the Buddha gave them. =|=

“The main Teaching of the Buddha focuses not on philosophical speculations about a Creator God or the origin of the universe, nor on a heaven world ever after. The Teaching, instead, is centred on the down-to- earth reality of human suffering and the urgent need to find lasting relief from all forms of discontent. The Buddha gave the simile of a man shot by a poison-tipped arrow who, before he would call a doctor to treat him, demanded to know first who shot the arrow and where the arrow was made and of what and by whom and when and where ... this foolish man would surely die before his questions could be well answered. In the same way, the Buddha said, the urgent need of our existence is to find lasting relief from recurrent suffering which robs us of happiness and leaves us in strife. Philosophical speculations are of secondary importance and, anyway, they are best left until after one has well trained the mind in meditation to the stage where one has the ability to examine the matter clearly and find the Truth for oneself.” =|=

Buddhist Sources on Perfection and Self Denial

Siddhartha sees a meditating ascetic, from a Buddha ivory tusk

To attain perfection that he may profit others.—Fo-pen-hing-tsih-king. [Source: “The Essence of Buddhism” Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius, 1922, Project Gutenberg]

The present is an imperfect existence: ... I pray for greater perfection in the next.—Inscription in Temple of Nakhon Vat.

Fulfil the perfection of long-suffering; be thou patient under ... reproach.—Introduction to Jataka Book.

My duty is to bear all the insults which the heretics launch against me.—Buddhaghosa's Parables.

Silently shall I endure abuse, as the elephant in battle endures the arrow sent from the bow.—Dhammapada.

Let not the member of Buddha's order tremble at blame, neither let him puff himself up when praised.—Tuvataka-sutta.

The end of the pleasures of sense is as the lightning flash: ... what profit, then, in doing iniquity?—Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king.

Cultivate equanimity.—Nalaka-sutta.

Abhor dissimulation!—Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king.

How should I be capable of leaving thee in thy calamity?... Whatever fate may be thine I am pleased with it.—Jatakamala.

Buddhist Sources on Purity and Happiness

The higher life maketh he known, in all its purity and in all its perfectness.—Tevijja-sutta. [Source: “The Essence of Buddhism” Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius, 1922, Project Gutenberg]

When pure rules of conduct are observed, then there is true religion.—Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king.

No man can purify another.—Dhammapada.

Like as the lotus is untarnished by the water, so is Nirvana by any evil dispositions.—Questions of King Milinda.

the topic of happiness is often addressed in Dalai Lama lectures

Spotless even as the moon, pure, serene, and undisturbed.—Vasettha-sutta.

If thou be born in the poor man's hovel, yet have wisdom, then wilt thou be like the lotus-flower growing out of the mire.—Jitsu-go-kiyo.

Whatsoever living beings there are, feeble or strong, small or large, seen or not seen, may all creatures be happy-minded.—Metta-sutta. [Source: “The Essence of Buddhism” Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius, 1922, Project Gutenberg]

All beings desire happiness; therefore to all extend your benevolence.—Mahavamsa.

Happy is he that is virtuous—Dhammapada.

To make an end of selfishness is happiness.—Udanavarga.

There is no happiness except in righteousness.—Attanagalu-vansa.

Full of love for all things in the world, practicing virtue in order to benefit others—this man only is happy.—Fa-kheu-pi-u.

He that loveth iniquity beckoneth to misfortune.—Jitsu-go-kiyo.

Let us then live happily, though we call nothing our own.—Dhammapada.

With no selfish or partial joy ... they rejoiced.—Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king.

Five Aggregates Of Clinging: Basis of Being

Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Theravada Buddhist scholar wrote: “The Buddha reveals that what we are, our being or personality, is a composite of five factors which are called the five aggregates of clinging. They are called the five aggregates of clinging because they form the basis for clinging. Whatever we cling to can be found amongst the five aggregates. These five function together as the instrument for our experience of the world. We cling to them as instruments of our experience in this life, and when they break up at death, due to that same clinging - the desire for enjoyment and for existence - a new set of aggregates, a new life arises to continue our experience in another existence. Thus we build up one set of aggregates after another, life after life, and in that way we accumulate Dukkha, the suffering, in the round of samsara. ***

“The Buddha says that the five aggregates have to be fully understood. This is the first Noble Truth, the truth of Dukkha. The five aggregates are our burden, but at the same time they provide us with the indispensable soil of wisdom. To bring suffering to an end we have to turn our attention around and see into the nature of the aggregates. ***

“The five aggregates are: 1) Material form; 2) Feelings; 3) Perceptions; 4) Mental formations; and 5) Consciousness. These five aggregates exhaust our psychophysical existence. Any event, any occurrence, any element in the mind-body process can be put into one of these five aggregates. There is nothing in this whole experiential process that lies outside them. ***

“All these four mental aggregates always exist together; they all depend upon one another. Whenever there is any experience of an object, at that moment there is present, simultaneously, a feeling, a perception, a cluster of mental formations and consciousness, the light of awareness. Whatever we identify ourselves with, whatever we take to be 'I', or 'my self' can be found within these five agggregates. Therefore if we care to understand ourselves, what we have to understand is the five aggregates. To fully understand the five aggregates means to see them as they really are, and this means to see them in terms of the three characteristics of existence, that is, impermanence, unsatisfactoriness or suffering, and selflessness or non-self.” ***

According to “Topics in Japanese Cultural History”: The first heap (aggregate), “"form," is a state of ignorance. For some reason (and I have yet to see a clear explanation given — it seems an article of faith), humans began to notice that the world around them was separate from themselves. It really was not separate, but people nevertheless began to notice forms distinct from themselves instead of undifferentiated, open space. Having made the mistake of seeing the surrounding world as something separate, people defensively seek to preserve this incorrect vision. They do so by trying to experience that separate world through sensory perceptions. "So we begin to reach out and feel the qualities of 'other.' By doing this we reassure ourselves that we exist" (Entering the Stream, p. 77, words of Chögyam Trungpa.) Feeling is the second heap. [Source: “Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University figal-sensei.org ~]

“Fascinated with what the senses have created, people seek to explore it further, resulting in the third heap of conception. People create categories, distinctions, and theories to explain their differentiated world. They receive information from "outside" themselves and react to it on the basis of these categories, distinctions, and theories. The fourth heap, volition, is much like the third. The major difference is that the third is a passive process, the result of reacting to incoming information. In the fourth heap, the process becomes active. Human agents volitionally seek to name, classify and categorize all existence. People become obsessed with attaching names to the artificial realities they have created. ~

“Consciousness, the fifth heap, is the culmination of the previous four to produce the thoughts and emotions that for most people define their individual identities and their world views. At this stage, "we find the six realms [see Chapter 4] as well as the uncontrollable and illogical patterns of discursive thought" (Entering the Stream, p. 79.) At this point, desires connected with the false sense of self feed on each other, making life constant suffering and, as karma, propelling us from one existence into another.” ~

“Human actions continually reaffirm the false sense of self. Language is the ultimate tool for affirming the artificial world of names, categories and distinctions, making it seem obvious and real, and blocking out any possibility of perceiving the undifferentiated unity that exists prior to the Five Heaps. The nonstop internal conversation most people carry on inside their heads while awake may be the single greatest obstacle to enlightenment.” ~

Illusions, Perversions and Miracles

The Buddha says: 1) All formations are impermanent. 2) All formations are unsatisfactory. And 3) All phenomena, everything whatsoever, are not self.

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote: “The Buddha says that we have to examine our experience in order to discover its most pervasive features, the universal characteristics of phenomena, namely, impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and egolessness or notself. Formations are things which arise from causes and conditions. They include all compounded or formed phenomena. Although all formations around us have these three characteristics, we are unable to see them because our minds are ordinarily cloaked by ignorance. Ignorance is a mental factor which has been covering the minds of all sentient beings through beginningless time. It covers the minds of every one but the fully enlightened ones, the Buddhas and the arahants. ***

“Ignorance functions in two ways, negative and positive. On the negative side it simply obstructs us from seeing things as they are; it throws up clouds of mental darkness. On the positive side, it creates in the mind illusions called perversions. Due to these perversions, we see things in quite the opposite way from the way they really are. These perversions are: 1) Perversion of seeing what is unattractive as attractive; 2) Perversion of seeing what is Dukkha or unsatisfactory as pleasurable; 3) Perversion of seeing what is impermanent as permanent; and 4) Perversion of seeing what is really not self as self. ***

1000 Buddhas in Ajanta Caves

“These illusions give rise to craving, conceit, wrong view and all other defilements, and in that way we become entangled in dukkha. These universal characteristics have to be understood in two stages: first intellectually, by reflection; and thereafter by direct insight or realisation through insight meditation. When we explain these intellectually, we should not make this a substitute for practice, but only take it as a guideline for understanding what has to be seen by the actual practice of insight meditation.” ***

the Buddha performed miracles that won him admirers but he warned his disciples not to show off their powers Kenneth Woodward wrote in Newsweek: Both Hinduism and Buddhism are quite precise about the kinds of powers or "superknowledges" that a successful practitioner of meditation can expect. Among them are knowledge of one's previous lives, and the abilities to traverse great distances in a moment and to penetrate the minds of others. But Buddhist sages, in particular, are wary of displaying these powers to others, lest it bolster the ego they are trying to overcome. Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, a Chinese Buddhist monk, established a Chan monastery in San Francisco in 1970. In Asia, it is reported that he could heal the ailments of those willing to follow the dharma of the Buddha. But in the United States, where he died in 1995, Master Hua thought that using supernatural powers as a teaching tool would be counterproductive in a rational, scientific society.” However “the "modern" shrine tradition may well have begun 2,500 years ago, when the bones of the deceased Buddha were distributed as relics to tribal chieftains. Later they were collected and enshrined in stupas across northern India. [Source: Kenneth Woodward, Newsweek, April 30, 2000]

Dependent Origination ("Conditioned Arising")

Dependent origination is the idea that what seems permanent and "real" is but the product of sensory creation, one thing creating another without stop. Also known as the “Chain of Causation” or “Conditions Arising,” it is a central theme in Buddhist philosophy and is viewed as a 12-linked chain that explains how things are connected and attachments leads to problems. If the chain is unraveled nirvana is attained. While The Buddha sat under the Bodhi he came to the realization that: “He who sees dependent see Dharma. He who sees Dharma sees dependent origination.” Hunter defines dependent origination as “an abstract law of continency denying independent existence to finite thing, though not denying their total reality. Such reality as they have is conditional on occurrence of something else that has already taken place and is conditioned by it.”

Jacob Kinnard wrote in the Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices: Often called "the chain of conditioned arising" or "the chain of becoming," pratitya-samutpada (Pali, paticca-samuppada) is one of the most important Buddhist doctrines, one about which Buddha's disciple Sariputta says, "Whoever understands conditioned arising understands the dharma." This is a more elaborate understanding of karma and samsara, a vision of cause and effect in which everything in the world is dependent on some other thing for its existence, succinctly expressed in this simple formula, which occurs in any number of Pali texts: "When this is, that is / This arising, that arises / When this is not, that is not / This ceasing, that ceases." In other words, one thing begets another. Birth begets life, which begets decay, which begets death, which begets birth, and around and around. To get out of the circle, one must break the chain somewhere, most efficiently at its weakest link, ignorance, which is done by applying oneself to mastering the dharma. [Source: Jacob Kinnard, Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices, 2018, Encyclopedia.com]

Dependent origination operates in three modes within the context of karma and reincarnation: 1) the Past (conditioned by karmic formation or ignorance of karmic formations); 2) the Present (conditioned by consciousness defined by names and shapes; names and shapes detected with the senses; the impact of the senses on feelings; the relationship between feelings and cravings, grasping and becoming); and 3) the Future (conditioned by rebirth, living and dying). Implied in this construct is that transcendence can be achieved by overcoming each stage in a kind of step by step progression with the understanding that if one stage can be overcome the stages before can also be overcome.

Twelve Links Dependent Origination

In his sermon on dependent origination, Buddha said:
1) On ignorance depends karma;
2) On karma depends consciousness;
3) On consciousness depends name and form;
4) On name and form depend the six organs of sense;
5) On the six organs of sense depends contact;
6) On contact depends sensation;
7) On sensation depends desire;
8) On attachment depends existence;
9) On existence depends birth;
10) On birth depend old age and death
11) On birth depend sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair.
12) Thus does the entire aggregation of misery arise. (Indian Philosophy, p. 278.)

The Buddha taught that growth and development through dependent origination was a 12-stage process that was like a circular chain, not a straight line, with each stage giving rise to the one directly after it: 1) Ignorance: inability to see the truth, depicted by a blind man; 2) Willed action: actions that shape our emerging consciousness, depicted by a potter moulding clay; 3) Conditioned consciousness: the development of habits, blindly responding to the impulses of karmic conditioning, represented by a monkey swinging about aimlessly. [Source: BBC |::|]

4) Form and existence: a body comes into being to carry our karmic inheritance, represented by a boat carrying men; 5) The six sense-organs: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body (touch) and mind, the way sensory information passes into us, represented by the doors and windows of a house; 6) Sense-impressions: the combination of sense-organ and sensory information, represented by two lovers; 7) Sensation: the feelings we get from sense-impressions, which are so vivid that they blind us, represented by a man shot in the eye with an arrow; |::|

8) Craving (tanha): negative desires that can never be sated, represented by a man drinking; 9) Attachment: grasping at things we think will satisfy our craving, represented by someone reaching out for fruit from a tree; 10) Becoming: worldly existence, being trapped in the cycle of life, represented by a pregnant woman; 11) Birth: represented by a woman giving birth; 12) Old age and death: grief, suffering and despair, the direct consequences of birth, represented by an old man. |::|

See Wheel of Life

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: East Asia History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu , “Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University figal-sensei.org, Asia for Educators, Columbia University; Asia Society Museum “The Essence of Buddhism” Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius, 1922, Project Gutenberg, Virtual Library Sri Lanka; “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World's Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 5 East and Southeast Asia” edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1993); BBC, Wikipedia, National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

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